State DOH works to reduce construction zone crashes in W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Over the last five years, there have been nearly 2,000¬†work zone crashes in West Virginia.

“Over that five year period, we’ve had 15 fatalities. It’s just completely unacceptable. We have to do better,” said state Transportation Secretary Tom Smith.

The state Division of Highways is working with State Police, the Governor’s Highway Safety Program and the West Virginia Contractors Association to reduce work zone crashes. Representatives from those organizations kicked off the state’s Work Zone Safety campaign Wednesday morning at the state Capitol.

The message this construction season, again, is “Just. Slow. Down.”

“We really want motorists to understand that they have a real responsibility to help keep our workers safe. They have a responsibility to stay observant in work zones,” Smith said.

Lt. Michael Baylous, State Police spokesman, said if motorists speed through the zones, he or she may see the flashing blue lights behind them.

“If it’s not enough incentive to not cause injury or death to someone else, then maybe it’s enough incentive to realize that they may lose some cash out of their wallet when they have to go pay these traffic citations,” Baylous said.

According to the DOH, 65 percent of work zone related crashed across the nation happen during daylight hours.

It’s an offense that troopers take very seriously, Baylous said.

“We will be out there and we will be enforcing the traffic laws through these work zones, so people better take notice,” he said.

The most common work zone crashes are rear-end collisions. Baylous said speed and cell phone usage are the most common violations.

“Distracted driving — that seems to be a problem,” he said.

The DOH puts out bright orange signs, flashing lights and wear protective bright-colored vests to alert motorists of a work zone area, Smith said.

“This is intended to get the attention of drivers. If drivers pay attention, we can prevent these crashes,” he said.

DOH workers put their lives at risk every day, Smith said.

“The folks that we have out there working in work zones are your neighbors,” he said. “It’s a dangerous environment they work in. The drivers that we have going through our work zones can really play a role in helping us keep those folks safe.”

For work zone tips and other information about the campaign, visit the DOT’s website or Facebook page.

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